I loved doing my first aerial silks act. Through the pain, sweat and tears emerged something I was truly proud of. It took about 6 months to put together from choosing music, to making up choreography to being able to perform the entire thing without my limbs falling off.
I did my first aerial silks act in the Fall 2015 open stage at the studio I go to: Air Temple Arts in Woodbridge, CT. Our studio has semi-annual open stages where students can perform acts they’ve created. I had been doing silks for about a year when I first started putting my act together. It was a bit of a process, but oh-so worth it. There’s a video at the end of this post of the performance.
Picking a Character/Story
This was the weirdest part for me. It turns out a great aerial silks performance should tell a story about a character, it’s not just 7 million drops and splits.
I think I finally connected with this idea when I went to see Cirque Eloize; there was an amazing contortionist/aerial silks girl who told stories so well with her choreography.
The character/story line I chose was a person who is struggling to discover what life is about – love (kind of a literal interpretation of my song, but hey I’m an engineer).
I think picking music happened in a parallel with picking a character/story as I listened to a bunch of songs and finally fell in love with one. I chose the song Madness by Muse. I liked that it was a little atypical to the delicate instrumental strings you hear in a lot of silks acts.
Lyrics or no Lyrics?
I chose to do my song with lyrics. I’ve seen acts with and without lyrics, and they’re both good. Doing a song without lyrics can be more flexible because you can loop and alter parts to suit your act. There is also more flexibility in interpretation if the song does not have lyrics.
I chose to start my act on the ground with a few tumbling moves before climbing. Some people start on the fabric, which I like too. I laid out my entire song in lyrical/musical sections, all around 10-30 seconds, and mapped out all the sequences I wanted to do. Having the lyrics blocked off helped me figure out where to put the big drop vs the “resting” section. One thing is, almost everything took twice as long as I thought, so I ended up cutting half of it. I printed out my blocked off song and brought it with me when I practiced and took notes on things I decided to change or remove until I eventually memorized it.
I could only get through about half my act for a few months. At first, I was winded and my forearms were completely pumped after doing a few sequences. I started by practicing it in halves, or without music at a slower pace until I built up the endurance to do the entire act. I practiced twice a week for an hour for six months, with one practice dedicated to my act and one to my regular class where I worked on mostly new skills.
When I was running my act with music in open studios I used these MPow wireless bluetooth headphones (Affiliate Link). Almost everyone in my studio uses some sort of wireless headphones while practicing an act, and from what I hear not all wireless headphones work well. These worked well for me and I ended up using them while running too.
I think every aerialist on a budget knows about discount dance. They have inexpensive leotards in various styles and colors and they ship quickly. I got my leotard from discount dance: a long sleeve black leotard with mesh slits in the sleeve. I paired this with some similar black leggings with mesh slits from Express.
A unitard, or matching solid leggings/leotard, or shear tights/leotard are all good options. The only thing I would stay away from is solid colored leggings/leotard that don’t match because they won’t give you long lines.
If I could justify it, I would love to get a custom costume made from a designer, like the beautiful ones I’ve seen on Etsy. There are lovely DIY costumes I’ve seen made from plain leotards which are also great. I’m not sure if my attempt would look quite as good but I look forward to trying.
I didn’t wear intense make up for my first performance. I basically did my day look with more eye liner and mascara than normal. I’ve seen some pretty intricate make up designs that involve gold foil, rhinestones, face paint, elaborate false eyelashes, etc. I think having a bold eye is probably the minimum, and anything else is up to your heart’s desire.
The week of my performance I did something silly, and that was some intense upper body work outs doing climbing/ninja things earlier in the week. To my defense, I didn’t realize I was going to be so sore after! I ended up spraying my hands down in Tuf Skin spray before my act because I was so worried about my arms giving out on me.
My performance went well. I got a little tripped up getting into my cross back straddle, which I never do. Watching it I notice those things, but overall I was really happy with how my first act went. I can’t wait to put together another act knowing everything I know now. The video of my act is up on Youtube, embedded below – enjoy!
Do you have a really unique idea for an act? A question about the process of creating one? I’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments!